NewsWhip 23 Sep 2020 // 6:57PM GMT
Last week, NewsWhip launched “Top Authors,” a feature bringing real time journalist influencer data to our Spike platform. The feature is powerful - but putting data like this to work requires skill. I asked some PR leaders how they make it happen.
The World Has Changed
First - the practitioners I spoke to all agreed that the world has changed in recent years, and data is informing everyday media strategy. Aubrey Quinn, Managing Director at Clyde Group, Washington DC, explains:
"When I started my career, I used Bacon's books to try to identify the best contacts at media outlets. Considering how infrequently Bacon's published, that rarely worked. … Today our media relations efforts are fueled by research… I'm always surprised to see journalists complain that they're getting off-topic PR pitches. If PR practitioners take the time to do the research, I truly don't understand how that's possible in 2020."
Her description of a major transition matches that of Todd Ringler, Managing Director, Head of US Media at Edelman, New York.
"It used to be just gut. And knowing which reporter worked at which speed at which publication. There was no real way to measure their engagement, their influence, their affinity for brands, other than grunting it out with your own desk research. Being able to deploy analytics now and bring science into the art has made our whole specialty a very different game."
Zach Silber, Chief Innovation Officer at Kivvit, New York puts it bluntly:
"If you are building your media lists using Cision and calling it a day, then you are doing it wrong. NewsWhip data tells us how many social engagements different reporters receive on a particular topic to determine which outreach is most likely to generate the widest engagement."
Data-Informed Media Planning
Data can help find the right journalist for a story - and also help frame a story. Darika Ahrens, Digital Director at Engine MHP in London explains:
"We use data from platforms like NewsWhip to help find potential advocates and also evaluate them. Influence is more nuanced than reach or how many followers someone has; we’re looking at factors like who has the impact to share information and genuinely “influence” across networks, as well as which stories, content or messages are most likely to be of interest to them and their audiences."
Data can also help professionals refine their message for different markets, says Todd Ringler of Edelman:
“We had one client that was embarking on an experiential type of program that they wanted to do in multiple markets - 12 cities nationally - pre-Covid times. When we looked at the program, a number of us felt that it was too homogenized across the markets.
We used NewsWhip to go in and audit how this topic was being discussed in various cities’ media…. Once we were able to go into each city and come back with insights for how this particular community spoke, how the media spoke about it, which topics rose to the fore around this topic, we were able to go back to the client and say, "Now that we've looked at the various cities, we can tell you that this is not going to land well in about 80% of the cities that you want to go into. And we need to dial the program in different directions, depending if we're going into Miami or Atlanta or Philadelphia or Dallas."
The result of the granular research was a change in strategy, and a successful campaign:
“The client was at first a bit dumbfounded that we were able to come up with and prove this with data, not just with our gut and our experience. We wound up completely shifting the strategy based on the research that we were able to do with Spike to look at the reporters and look at the outlets and the topics and make a strategic change.”
As well as geographies, data can also be used to quickly discover influence in specific niches, uncovering partnership opportunities. Darika Ahrens of MHP explains:
"Thanks to monitoring with tools like NewsWhip we capture insight daily, whether it’s a journalist or an influencer posting on social about a client or relevant topics. With our client Kimberly-Clark we’ve used data to help us positively find and engage with influencers over everything from cute puppies (Andrex), new babies (Huggies) and supporting those suffering through hay fever (Kleenex). These positive mentions from influencers have resulted in sometimes millions of earned impressions with the added touch of third-party endorsement and brand love that advertising can’t provide."
When a planner uses data to analyze who writes about and gets impact on a topic, that will often provide more precise, targeted results. Todd Ringler of Edelman calls this an “algorithmic approach” - looking at the writer, their interests, and their influence, and pulling out the patterns.
Often, data on a journalist or publication can also simply be used to test an idea. Aubrey Quinn of Clyde Group told us she has “found that NewsWhip Spike usually confirms what I suspected to be true; the data confirms and validates ‘hunches.’”
Using Data for Amplifying - and Relationships
Data is helpful for planning - but real-time, predictive data can also help with decisions - such as whether to amplify with a paid strategy. Zach Silber of Kivvit explains:
“Newswhip provides a crucial advantage in media relations throughout the full lifecycle of a news story. We use Analytics to identify the outlet and report that will generate the most outsized engagement, then once a story is placed we use Spike to understand it’s trajectory, including influencers who are sharing it and how it is performing relative to similar articles. This insight informs whether we need to refine our earned and paid strategy to achieve our goals.”
Todd Ringler of Edelman also used data in his pitches - to show a journalist that a story is likely to go well:
“When you pitch a reporter, after you've done your homework, you can say: look, this type of story has gotten really high engagement on social, and share past links. If it resonated before it's going to resonate again.”
And having data and insight can even help build relationships with key journalists.
“It can be a good way to build a relationship. Hey, I'm watching your story soar across the ecosystem. Nice work. Because sometimes they don't have that data.”
The Continued Importance of Experience
As we can see - using data requires a framework, a point of view, and imagination. Everyone we spoke to emphasized that data cannot answer a complex question by itself.
Darika Ahrens: “Social data makes a vast landscape manageable and measurable – but it comes with the disadvantage that numbers alone can’t tell the story. All data should be reviewed and interpreted by subject specialists before developing any strategy” said Darika Ahrens of MHP.
Looking at data from multiple sources can be helpful, points out Zach Silber, whose team at Kivvit integrate social and readership data: “Integrating data from Newswhip with other sources is an essential part of how we develop strategy. For example, we often compare Newswhip insight about the social trajectory of a story with readership data to identify trends.”
Different audiences respond in different ways - and practitioners must have some context to interpret these reactions according to Darika Ahrens of MHP. “We are now telling stories in The Networked Age, opinions are more polarised, so it’s important we share the right story with those who are open and receptive to our clients.”
This is particularly the case with some political publishers, who have audiences that are “just share-crazy,” Todd Ringler warns: “You have to have your wits about you when you go looking into the data to make sure that you are combining your experience and your knowledge along with the data to come up to an answer.”
That said, he finds it far better to have the data and capability to put it into context:
“It is a better answer than we've had in decades of doing this work. We actually have directional data. We have good data, and we have more knowledge about who we can go to target, and how to get a better impact for the storytelling we do.”